Pancho + the Factory.Photo: Athena Delene.

Musicians Fight Back

Eugene musicians organize to prevent sexual assault in the music scene

Last summer, Portland (and former Eugene) musician Joel Majid admitted on social media he was a sexual predator. The shocking confession garnered national attention, shining a spotlight on sexual assault in music scenes and their subcultures. A cohort of Eugene musicians, led by Jennifer Cheddar, Stephen Buettler and Nick Gamer (Pancho + The Factory), took the opportunity to galvanize. 

Gamer was on tour in Charlotte, North Carolina, with his band Japanese Breakfast when the Majid story broke. He saw a “consent poster” on the wall at the venue where his band was playing. The poster defined consent to both venue staff and patrons. 

“I took a picture and I put it on my Instagram,” Gamer says, “and thought when I get back home I’m going to put this in every venue possible.” 

Soon Eugene Musicians Against Sexual Violence (MASV) formed, first as a Facebook group, Cheddar says, piggybacking on a similar organization in Portland. Now MASV (“We say ‘massive,’” Cheddar explains) hopes to gain nonprofit status as a 501(c)(3), working towards providing Eugene concert venues and bars with consent posters and free test strips used to detect Rohypnol in drinks, also known as “roofies” or the “date-rape drug”.

Majid’s admission drew some accolades but also plenty of criticism. Nevertheless, Cheddar appreciates how the incident drew attention to sexual assault in music communities. 

“This is happening between bands; this is happening in venues and in audiences,” she says, “When Nick saw that poster we thought: Why aren’t we doing something like that?” 

With the election of Donald Trump casting doubt on the future of social service funding, as well as the president-elect’s cavalier attitude toward sexual assault, the musicians felt the time to act was now — the only response to national politics was to mobilize locally. 

Statistics measuring sexual assault within music scenes are hard to come by, but the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), an anti-sexual violence organization, says two-thirds of sexual assaults go unreported. Womenspace, a Lane County-based domestic and sexual violence support service, says on its website: “One in four women in the United States will be a victim of intimate partner violence at some point in her life.”

Cheddar says MASV seeks to remain results-oriented. “Part of our strategy is to partner with agencies like Womenspace and SASS [Sexual Assault Support Services of Lane County], hopefully having community partners that will work with us to design some kind of program that will be replicated in other cities and other scenes.”

So far, Gamer, Cheddar and Buettler say the support from Eugene-area venues and musicians has been outstanding. Now MASV is throwing a fundraiser, Pancho’s Black Christmas Pageant, an old-fashioned Christmas variety show “for grown-ass adults,” Gamer adds. The show will feature appearances from local bands Athiarchists, Critical Shakes, Betty Jaeger (of Betty & The Boy) and many more performing Christmas originals as well as classic holidays tunes.

It will be “a variety show,” Buettler says, “comedy, burlesque, circus-y,” and all door proceeds will go toward funding MASV becoming an official nonprofit. “We’re going all out,” Gamer adds. 

Pancho’s Black Christmas Pageant is 8 pm Friday, Dec.16, at Hi-Fi Music Hall; $10, 21-plus. The first 50 to arrive get a copy of Pancho’s Xmas Gift For You and free cookies while supplies last. Find the Musicians Against Sexual Violence group on Facebook to get involved.

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